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El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Taylor Swift fails to deliver with ‘THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT’

“THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” and its surprise dual album “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” disappoint with repetitive lyricism and production
One of the four album covers for “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” features Swift in a state of distress with her hands in her hair. Swift released variants of the album cover with “bonus tracks,” and this specific cover comes with the bonus track “The Black Dog.” This photo eventually became the cover for “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY.” Album cover | Beth Garrabrant

Global mega-popstar Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated album “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” on Friday, April 19, following months of excitement. Swift announced the album upon winning “Best Pop Vocal Album” with “Midnights” at the 2024 Grammy Awards in early February. She posted the tracklist on her Instagram mere days later, and also began announcing variants of the album on different vinyls as the release date approached. Finally, as one last surprise, Swift released “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY,” an album containing an additional 15 tracks, two hours after the release of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT.”

The primary album cover features Swift decked out in black clothing on a white bed, creating a stark contrast between the singer and her surroundings. Album cover | Beth Garrabrant

Yet beyond the fog screen of marketing schemes and various surprises, the original 16 tracks of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” were a blatant disappointment. Perhaps the biggest flaw lies in Swift’s lyricism, as her claim to fame as a singer-songwriter seems to have expired with tracks such as “But Daddy I Love Him.” The chorus of “But Daddy I Love Him” includes the lines “‘I’m havin’ his baby’ / No, I’m not, but you should see your faces,” which come across as forced and cringy, mitigating the lyrical significance. Another disappointment was in “So High School,” where Swift compares her relationships to teenagers and young love. However, the lyricism and track’s overall concept feel like a rip-off from her 2019 song “Ms. Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” which also parallels Swift’s relationship at the time with high school love. “So High School” also features awkward lyrics like “Touch me while your bros play Grand Theft Auto,” making the track corny and painful to listen to. 

Beyond its lyricism, the overall composition of the album’s tracklist is a downgrade compared to Swift’s previous works. Swift chose to begin the album with “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone),” which is a weak track, especially for an album opener — while the lyrics allude to concepts Swift discusses later in the album, the production of the track is bland and lacks character, which only dissuades people from listening to the remainder of the album.

Throughout the album, the tracks also feel randomly placed, especially in “So High School” and “The Alchemy,” both of which are speculated to be about Swift’s new relationship with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Travis Kelce. Both tracks are sandwiched between songs covering heartbreak and Swift’s dissatisfaction at being in the spotlight, detracting heavily from the album’s sorrowful tones. While the album redeems itself with “Clara Bow” at the end of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” and “The Manuscript” at the end of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY,” a stellar ending track does not recoup the album’s apparent randomness with its tracklist that conveys no clear story from start to finish.

Furthermore, the album’s Achilles heel is perhaps its claim to fame — its length. While 31 tracks is impressive, it is also way too many tracks to release in a single night, such that listening to the album feels like a marathon rather than a genuine joy. By listening to the tracks, it becomes clear that Swift prioritized the release of multiple songs over the quality of each song, with multiple tracks sounding identical in both production and theme.

The tracklist for “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” as shared by Taylor Swift via her Instagram. It was later discovered that this version was for “The Manuscript” variant. Tracklist | @taylorswift on Instagram

Another letdown is the disparity in the album’s production, which was perhaps exacerbated with the release of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” — while Jack Antonoff was the primary producer of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT,” Aaron Dessner was the primary producer of “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY,” and it is immediately clear that one was slightly better at their job. The first half of Antonoff’s album is an utter failure with its production — he often incorporates unnecessary synths that drown out Swift’s voice and make her lyrics less impactful. On the other hand, Dessner’s approach to instrumentals on “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” allowed Swift’s sensitivity as a singer-songwriter to shine through, making the tracks sound far more intimate and emotional. 

Despite flopping in its lyricism and composition, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” does get points for its personal nature. “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” is arguably one of Swift’s most vulnerable tracks, delving into both heartbreak and the unforgiving nature of the music industry with a catchy and groovy chorus.

The features on the album were also very well done, especially “Florida!!! (feat. Florence + The Machine).” Rock band Florence + The Machine lead singer Florence Welch’s vocals complement Swift’s perfectly, creating an addictive harmony as the two take turns singing in the track’s bridge. Furthermore, Florence + The Machine executes the backing instrumentals flawlessly, creating climaxes that allow the vocalists to truly shine. 

In large, the album was a letdown. Fans of Swift had high expectations due to the marketing that went into the album’s release, and while some may have gotten their wish with Swift’s releases, others were inevitably disappointed with the lack of character on both albums. Swift is known for her strong lyricism, as exemplified by the rise in popularity of 2020 Indie folk album “folklore” because of Swift’s eloquence with the pen. However, “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT” and “THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: THE ANTHOLOGY” fail to meet the mark that Swift has set for herself, losing themselves in pools of insignificancy as Swift seemingly fails to remember what made her past albums so memorable.  


About the Contributor
Aashi Venkat
Aashi Venkat, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Aashi Venkat is currently a senior and an arts and entertainment editor for El Estoque. Her favorite color is pink and she likes to take pictures and listen to music in her free time.
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